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Farmers Urged to Be Aware of Electrical Hazards
Farmers and farm family members face dangers every day. Although tragedies such as tractor rollovers and grain bin suffocation receive the most attention, electrocution and electrical burn accidents are frequent on farms. Electrical safety is one of the priorities during National Farm Safety and Health Week, September 19-25.
The simple movement of a portable grain auger from one bin to another can have tragic results if the individuals involved are not extremely careful. The use of tractors with large cabs and antennas and oversized grain wagons can also result in preventable electrocution incidents.
Electrical equipment around fields, such as power lines in the end rows, may get overlooked during such a hectic time of year as harvest. However, failure to notice overhead power lines can be a deadly oversight.
Most farmsteads could use a very careful overhead visual inspection of electric lines. The service may no longer meet the proper height codes because of age and/or damage to poles and pole guy wires. The sag may have increased over the years, while the height of the machinery being used today may be much higher.
However, today’s farm equipment has a long reach when extended; and even when collapsed for roadway transport, many pieces of equipment may exceed the height of power lines. A daily check should be made of where equipment will be moving to ensure that it will clear power lines. Don’t take matters into your own hands. They may not be as high as they look. Always use a spotter, someone with a broad vantage point, when working in the vicinity of power lines.
Maintain a 10-foot separation from a power line completely around it, whether you are driving underneath or passing a grain auger near it. A 53-year-old Michigan truck driver who was cleaning sugar beets out of his truck unknowingly raised the bed into a 4,800 volt overhead power line. As he stood in the wet field and touched the energized truck bed, he was fatally burned.
In addition to conducting a field survey of power lines to locate potential hazards, employers should obtain safety information from utility companies for the benefit of their workers, if the lines are to remain energized.
Where possible, install electrical safety warning signage to prevent equipment and personnel contact with power lines. This will also be beneficial to your suppliers who may be making deliveries to your farm. Always keep in mind that electricity doesn’t allow mistakes, and neither should you.